Hands-On Review:Guitar Tracks Pro 3
Guitar Tracks Pro 3
Recording Software for Guitarists
by Paul Beck
Remember the fun you had that first day you brought home your 4-track recorder? I just couldn't get over how cool it was to hear myself playing on 2 different tracks at once while over dubbing a solo on a third track. For a long-time, this was the standard. Higher track count, better sound quality, built-in effects and the ability to actually edit your recording seemed like way too much to ask for in those fledgling days of home recording.
Well I'm happy to say that you can have those feelings of fun and inspiration again and get those pie-in-the-sky features that you always wanted, all for a fraction of the price of yesterday's digital multi-tracks. By taking advantage of the power of your desktop or laptop computer, the software gurus over at Cakewalk are able to provide us with a program that includes all the trimmings of a high-end studio at a breakthrough price. Guitar Tracks Pro 3 is the latest version of their revolutionary recording and production software designed specifically for guitarists.
Plug 'n Play
You can install Guitar Tracks Pro 3 on any Windows 2000 or XP computer, even a laptop. It only took me a few minutes before I had the program up and running. You'll want to make sure that you have a way to plug your guitar, bass, or microphone into your soundcard. If you don't have a professional card that has ¼" inputs, you can connect your instruments or mixer using an ¼" to 1/8" adapter, available at most electronics or music stores. You can produce an entire song literally, with nothing other than your instrument and your computer. Effects, amp modeling, overdubs, and even backing tracks can all be created directly inside the software. Track 'til the cows come home
Even in the hands of the most gifted producer, 4 tracks were rather limiting. With Guitar Tracks Pro, you have no less than 32-tracks. You don't have to worry about running out of tape, and the 24 bit/96 kHz recording quality is on par with DVDs. Should you actually burn through that many tracks while composing your rock opera masterpiece, you can digitally bounce tracks without losing any sound quality whatsoever.
Give Your Neighbors a Break
For most of us, cranking up a 100 Watt Tube Head to '11' is a luxury seldom experienced, even if you're in a gigging band. The rest of the time we take advantage of the latest generation of floorboards or amp modeling processors. Guitar Tracks Pro costs about half of what you would spend on one of these units, yet it contains all of the same high-end effects and amp simulation technology. Using the included Amplitube LE plug-in from IK Multimedia, I was able to dial in everything from a warm tubey roundness to a blistering rectified tone. To top this off, the included GT:FX suite includes every effect you should ever need: phaser, tempo delay, chorus/flange, parametric EQ, compression, and a lush reverb. The best part about any of these effects is that you can go back and change them, even after you've recorded the take.
Share the Fun
Guitar Tracks Pro 3 allows you to record multiple instruments to do different tracks at the same time, assuming you have a soundcard with multiple inputs. This means that the drummer can record all of his drum mics to separate tracks or the rhythm guitarist can follow cues from the vocalist as she lays down a scratch track. Because you can run up to 32 plug-ins across multiple tracks, you can record guitar with a distorted and delayed tone, while the bassist hears himself being processed through a compressor and autowah, for example.
For the times when you want to go it alone, Guitar Tracks Pro 3 has you covered. The software ships with hundreds of megabytes of drum, bass, and guitar loops so you can start building up a song in a matter of minutes. All of these loops will automatically match your song's current tempo, even if you create a song with multiple tempo changes. This means your backing tracks will all play with the correct pitch and timing. What's more, you can actually change the key of backing tracks by inserting new 'pitch markers.' By using multiple pitch markers throughout the song, you can instantly create a song structure.
Because these loops use the industry standard 'ACID' wave file format, you can easily expand your library of loops with additional genre- or instrument-specific titles from Cakewalk and many other 3rd party providers, such as Smart Loops.
Whether you need to punch record a solo or you prefer to mix with faders instead of a mouse, Guitar Tracks Pro 3 integrates seamlessly with your hardware. Using any floor processor with a MIDI out, such as Digitech's popular RP and GNX models, you can start, stop, and even punch record remotely while keeping both hands on your axe. By using a digital mixer or control surface, you can remotely control the integrated 32x8 mixing console using faders and knobs for hands-on tactile control. Guitar Tracks Pro also provides comprehensive synchronization so you can transfer songs from your old drum machine or ADAT without missing a beat.
Bringing it Home
You'll never get famous if no one hears your music, so Guitar Tracks Pro conveniently provides several ways to deliver your finished product. For creating an audio CD, you can export using industry standard .wav files. If you want to send the track to a friend or post it to your web site, Guitar Tracks Pro will automatically create Real Audio, Windows Media, or MP3 files for you in a variety of sizes.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Guitar Tracks Pro 3 clearly has something for everyone. If you are in need of a little inspiration or you just want to get on top of the latest technology, this is the place to start. Guitar Tracks Pro 3 is currently shipping for a street price around $149. If you already own Guitar Tracks or Guitar Tracks Pro 2, you can get special upgrade pricing from www.cakewalk.com.